One last excursion before heading into the Alashan. In the late afternoon on the day before departure we piled into jeeps and vans and drove about an hour I think east of Yinchuan on paved roads, to what I was told was 'Sand Lake.' This was a vast lake in the desert -- quite incongruous and unexpected -- the shores of which were thick with tall reeds. We boarded a motor boat and wended our way around innumerable small islands and clumps of reeds -- it reminded me a little of the upper reaches of the Nile.
It was teeming with fish and there weer vast flocks of migratory birds.
Strange thing is, I have looked for this lake on Google Earth and can't seem to find it. Mystery to me -- maybe it has subsided back into the desert.
We put ashore on a large sandy island where a number of larger vessels had also docked. There was a large restaurant bustling with customers where we were guests of honor at a dinner with Ningxia Province officials.
Paolo told me these meet-and-greets were essential for him to get the permits and passes required for him to travel in these parts of China.
Food included muddy tasting 'Sand Lake fish,' some steamed greens they described as 'wild desert garlic' -- and a heaping platter of dried caviar or roe. Countless toast of Mao Tai until we were glassy eyed.
Following dinner was entertainment; we sat in bleachers on a sandy beach with a couple hundred spectators and watched traditional Chinese dance and music a a stage built on a barge moored offshore. I didn't understand a thing but was dazzled by the virtuosity and athletic, acrobatic ability of the costumed dancers. The pictures didn't come out but this gives you an idea:
What I found delightful was that after the performance, the dancers rushed off the barge and onto the beach and someone set of a big iron brazier of wood -- an elevated bonfire -- and put loud techno music on the speakers -- and the dancers mingled and danced with the audience members. It seemed so youthful and exuberant. Dancing girls and bonfires.
I snapped this pic of one of the girls I was dancing with:
Next morning, all somewhat hung over, we readied to head head out on the bikes, Paolo in the lead: